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Are bad drivers making traffic worse around Seattle?

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
LISTEN: Are bad drivers making traffic even worse?

Traffic in the Seattle-area is bad and getting worse. From Everett to Seattle, the average commute time during the week is 58 minutes (to travel a distance of about 23 miles). The “reliable” commute time, what the Washington State Department of Transportation reported drivers should give themselves in order to ensure getting to their destination on time, is about 90 minutes.

RELATED: ‘Reliable’ travel time from Everett to Seattle now 1.5 hours in the morning

Imagine what we could do with some of those minutes if we didn’t have to spend them sitting in traffic. We could sleep in. We could read. We could exercise. We could go to work early.

Those of us who can commute via train or bus can reclaim some of that time.

“I found that when I commuted and actually could do something other than drive, for example, could read the paper, could get caught up on some work, some email, things like that, I was pretty productive,” said KIRO Radio’s Mike Lewis on the Tom and Curley Show on Wednesday. “I got to work and didn’t have that sort of ‘getting into the bath’ period where you’re sort of doing nothing at work because you’re still getting into that head space.”

But not all of us live and work in situations where we can take the train. So what can be done? And what’s causing all the drive time increases?

The WSDOT report stated that the booming economy likely has something to do with it. As housing prices rise in Seattle, more and more people move outside of the city and commute in to work. KIRO Radio’s John Curley had another suggestion.

“I wonder how much of it is bad driving,” Curley said. More well-educated drivers or, better yet, self-driving cars, might speed up drive times by eliminating common traffic-causing instances like the accordion effect.

According to a study done by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, distracted drivers can also have a pretty significant effect on traffic. Although the study focused mainly on teenage drivers, the findings state, “…all drivers, regardless of age, may drive in a manner that impacts safety and traffic flow negatively when distracted.”

“If everybody was a really good driver, and by the way, everybody thinks they are a better driver than everybody else, but if everybody stepped up their game somehow, would we be able to cut say 20 minutes out of our commute?” Curley asked.

“I think absolutely,” Lewis said.

A new distracted driving law was enacted earlier this year, but Washington drivers still rank as some of the worst in the country.

“There are situations in life where we should provide practice for people who are not very good,” Lewis said. Like a practice ATM or a practice grocery store self-checkout scanner. Or practice Renton S-curves, the pair suggested.

“Send people through a mock-up of the S-turns,” Lewis said.

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